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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. PATRICIA TEMPEST (12/17/81)

decided: December 17, 1981.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, APPELLEE
v.
PATRICIA TEMPEST, APPELLANT



No. 334 Jan. Term, 1979, Appeal from the Judgment of the Court of Common Pleas, Trial Division, Criminal Section of Philadelphia County at 76-06-1512.

COUNSEL

Carmen C. Nasuti, court-appointed, Philadelphia, for appellant.

Robert B. Lawler, Chief, Appeals Div., Kenneth Gallant, Philadelphia, for appellee.

O'Brien, C. J., and Roberts, Nix, Larsen, Flaherty, Kauffman and Wilkinson, JJ. O'Brien, C. J., and Roberts, J., concurred in the result.

Author: Larsen

[ 496 Pa. Page 437]

OPINION

In a non-jury trial, Mrs. Patricia Tempest (appellant) was convicted of murder of the first degree for the drowning of

[ 496 Pa. Page 438]

    her six-year old son. Post-verdict motions were denied and appellant was sentenced to life imprisonment. This direct appeal followed and presents issues of whether the evidence was sufficient to find appellant sane and guilty of murder of the first degree, and whether appellant's confession was properly admitted into evidence.*fn1

The record discloses that appellant has been emotionally disturbed since adolescence. Evidently, appellant suffers from depression and low self-esteem, and perceives herself as unattractive and a loner. Prior to the homicide, appellant had been hospitalized for mental illness seven or eight times, the first time at age fifteen and twice following suicide attempts. But despite her problems, appellant married Ronald Tempest and had one son, Gregory, the victim. A psychiatrist who counseled the Tempest family described them as an intact and affectionate family.

On June 18, 1976, tragedy struck this family. Appellant's confession relates in part the facts:

I got up quarter to eleven or something like that. My husband had already left to go to work. I gave Gregory his breakfast. He was already up watching T.V. It was the last day for kindergarten. I was packing him a lunch for his picnic. I gave him juice with vitamin E. I told him he had to get a bath. He didn't want to go right away. He wanted to finish watching his program so I told him to come up after he did. I went upstairs and filled the tub. I filled it more than normal. When he came upstairs he noticed and said it was kind of deep. He got in the tub himself. I washed the front of his body, then I told him to turn around on his stomach. He told me I didn't wash his face yet. So, I washed his face. I told him to turn on his ...


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